How Sonoma County residents are coping with historically high prices
“Wood isn’t the issue right now,” said Tom Snyder, whose company specializes in building custom homes in Sonoma County. “Everything else is.”
The 4-inch PVC sewer pipe that cost Snyder $2.17 a foot in 2020 now costs over $6 a foot. A roll of copper wire used by electricians to wire a house that cost $70 in 2020 now costs $150.
Snyder’s labor costs are rising. “Guys just can’t afford food and fuel,” he said. On invoices submitted by subcontractors, he notices line items that he has never seen before.
In the past, he says, “if your tiler had to go to the showroom or warehouse and pick up all the tiles for a job, they wouldn’t charge you for fuel to pick up that material. They didn’t worry about it. It was part of the job. »
Now it is pasted on the invoice.
Along with scrambling to find workers, builders are also at the mercy of unstable and slow supply chains that can lead to “months and months of project delays,” noted North CEO Lisa Wittke Schaffner. Coast Builders Exchange. She knows what she’s talking about. Around the time she took office last January, she launched a renovation of her home in Healdsburg that was expected to take two months. It took seven.
Exorbitant fuel, driver shortagee
To help offset spiraling gas and diesel costs, Petaluma-based Pure Luxury Travel will soon be applying a 6% surcharge for guests.
The price of fuel to run the company’s 90-vehicle fleet is “killing us,” co-owner Jennifer Buffo said. And the rising cost of oil has driven up the price of all petroleum-based products, including brakes, engines, and tires. “In our industry, everything costs more when the gas goes up,” lamented co-owner Gary Buffo.
Another obstacle to their activity is the shortage of drivers. Since the pandemic loosened its grip on the region, the demand for Pure Luxury’s services has increased. “If we had the employees, I could run 50 more vehicles a day,” said Jennifer, who was careful to point out that the next fuel surcharge will be temporary.
“When it approaches $4 a gallon, we’re going to take it out.”
When could that be?
“Most economists currently believe that current inflation will persist for a little while,” said Eyler of Sonoma state. “It will probably be with us, at relatively high levels, until early 2023.”
Egg prices up 240%
From the wildfires of 2017 to the floods the following year to other fires and a pandemic, followed by inflation, “all of our disasters overlap,” said David Goodman, CEO of the Redwood Empire Food Bank , which plans to distribute $60 million of groceries to the needy this year.
As North Bay slowly emerged from the grip of COVID-19, demand for food bank services began to decline, Goodman said. “But when all this inflation started, it went right back up.”
Inflation has dramatically increased the need for nonprofit services — now at 169% of pre-pandemic times, Goodman said — even as it made those services much more expensive.
Although a grape capital, Sonoma County is not a big food producer. So this food has to be transported by truck. “Every time we bring in food, there’s a fuel surcharge, a labor surcharge for driving the truck,” Goodman said. “Everything goes up.”
In 2021, the food bank paid 83 cents for a dozen eggs. That same dozen eggs now costs $2.82, a 240% increase. A box of cereal increased by 22%. A pound of chicken is up over 100%. Commodities went up a nickel a pound, from 15 cents to 20, which doesn’t sound very dramatic, until you consider that the food bank will buy 9.6 million pounds of produce this year, which means she has to shell out an extra half a million dollars for fruits and vegetables.
Overall, the nonprofit will see its food costs increase by 49% this year.
Another difference from pre-pandemic times, Goodman said: “We’re now helping a lot of people who aren’t poor,” or at least don’t describe themselves as such — people with good jobs and two cars that didn’t’ earn enough to put much into their savings. When a reversal of fortune occurs, “there is no elasticity in their bank account”.
Cyndi Shanklin lost her husband a year and a half ago. “So I’m on a fixed income now,” she explained as she walked out of the Grocery Outlet in Santa Rosa. “It was really difficult. I’m just feeding myself, but I’m blown away by what it’s costing me.
Behind her, a courteous cashier offers to put a bag in the trolley of an elderly customer.
“Nothing is too heavy for me,” the 86-year-old said as she grabbed the bag herself. “I just retired a year and a half ago.”
“You have no idea,” the woman replied, when asked if she was feeling the pinch of inflation. (She also informed a reporter that she does not give her name to strangers.)
While she once spent $25 for a week’s worth of groceries for herself, she had just written a check for $40. “For a shopping spree!”
Outside the store, Tim Reed was loading groceries into the pannier of his 3-wheel electric bike. Yes, inflation was outpacing his pension and Social Security, the 68-year-old admitted. Yes, he had canceled “a few trips to Europe” in recent years – a concession to both the economy and the coronavirus.
But Reed, a former computer technician, doesn’t bother. “I’ve always been very good at living on next to nothing. I get a month’s worth of money, I spend it in 27 days and for 4 days I spend nothing,” he said.
“I’m basically a cheap son of a bitch,” Reed added. When times are tough, “all I have to do is turn it on”.
You can contact editor Austin Murphy at [email protected] or on Twitter @ausmurph88.